How to track alcohol macros, simplified for ya! I break it al down for you in this post. Keep reading for the quick add alcohol macro calculator and macro cheat sheets for all your favorites drinks!
Whether it’s summertime pool parties or holiday get-togethers, throughout the year there are always going to be fun celebrations where you might want to enjoy a yummy cocktail or two! If you’re new to macros, you might be wondering how to fit in a few drinks while sticking to your goals. Luckily, it’s pretty simple and just requires a bit of pre-planning! Let’s dive in!
THE FOURTH MACRONUTRIENT
You’ll often hear alcohol coined as the “fourth” macronutrient. As you know, we have carbs, fats, and proteins that all foods are broken down into in our bodies. Each macronutrient serves a purpose in how our bodies are fueled and work together to provide our body with the energy and nutrients we need to live our best healthy life. To read more on the purpose each of these three macronutrients serve, I recommend reading The Science of Fat Loss: What are “Macros” and Tracking Macros vs. Just Tracking Calories.
So, how does alcohol fit in?
Unfortunately, despite its “fun” benefits, alcohol does not provide our bodies with any nutrients. However, it does still contain calories, and those calories need to be accounted for when tracking macros.
As a reminder, there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein. There are 9 calories per gram of fat.
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram.
WE DON’T TRACK ALCOHOL MACROS AS PROTEIN!
So alcohol is actually its own macronutrient, but for our macro counting purposes, it is tracked as a carb, fat or combination of both. It is never recommended to track alcohol as protein because your protein target has been specifically set to ensure you are maintaining your muscle mass (when in a calorie deficit) or maintaining/building your muscle mass (when you are eating at maintenance calories).
If you’ve decided to track macros, chances are you are looking to tone up, lose fat or build some muscle. Maybe all three right? 😉 And you probably already know that protein needs to be high enough for you to do this. That is why we never want to allot any empty calories to protein! Plus, protein is satiating, meaning it’s going to keep feeling satisfied (and not reaching for that bag of chips!) And this is especially important if you’re going to be consuming alcohol because we all know how hard it is to resist all the yummy foods when alcohol is involved.
HOW TO TRACK ALCOHOL MACROS AS CARBS OR FATS
To calculate macronutrients for alcohol, we just need to know ONE thing: how many calories it contains. From there, we can allot those calories to either carbs, fats, or a combination of the two.
For example, if your drink has 100 calories you can track that as 25g carbs, 11g fats, or 13g carbs and 6g fats.
When you track alcohol macros as a combination of both, any ratio works too. As in, you don’t have to allot 50% of the calories to fats and 50% of the calories to carbs. You could do 25% fats and 75% carbs if you wanted (3g fats and 19g carbs) if that fits your macros for the day better!
IS IT BETTER TO TRACK ALCOHOL MACROS AS CARBS, FATS OR A COMBO OF CARBS AND FATS?
So… which option is better? Well, that’s going to depend on your macros for that given day and which option fits into YOUR day best. It’s important to note, which route you decide to take each time you drink may change too, depending on what else you have already consumed/plan to consume on that given day.
My best recommendation would be to look at your day as a whole. Is your day more carb heavy? Is your day more fat heavy? For example, if you have been traveling and eating out a lot, you’ve likely been consuming higher fats because restaurants use a good amount of oil. So in that case, I would recommend allocating more of those alcohol calories towards carbs. But if it’s just a normal day at home and you want to have a margarita, you may have more balanced macros, so you may decide to allot half to carbs and the other half to fats.
Ok, so you just need to know the calories in order to track alcohol macros… COOL. But…
WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN MY DRINK?
I also want to mention that if you can’t find the exact calories for your drink of choice, don’t worry, we can guesstimate here! Remember this- generally, similar types of drinks will have similar calories. I will typically just do a quick google search of the drink i’m drinking, find the calories of something similar and call it good! Truly it’s not worth overthinking, just go with what makes sense and don’t stress it. If you only drink on occasion anyway, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things!
I’ve also included a cheat sheet guide for the calories of all your favorite drinks that can help take the guesswork out of it all. Keep reading for those graphics!
HOW TO TRACK ALCOHOL MACROS: A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
One of the most common questions when it comes to tracking alcohol calories/macros is how a drink can claim “0g carbs” (along with 0g fat and 0g protein) but have 100 calories? If it has 0g of everything does that not mean it’s zero calories?
As mentioned before, alcohol is technically the 4th macronutrient. It contains calories, but because alcohol does not provide actual nutrition (in the form of carbs, protein and fat), companies can legally claim for their drink to have 0 carbs, 0 fats, and 0 proteins and put that on their label. This is why we ALWAYS look at the actual calorie number! Be sure to always only pay attention to the calories label and track as described above. In this case, you would figure out how you want to track 80 calories (20 carbs, 9 fats, or 10 carbs and 4 fats).
ALCOHOL’S PLACE IN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
The point of macro counting is never to restrict, so if you fancy a glass of wine (or a margarita) every now and then, there is absolutely no harm in that! There are just some things I would keep in mind:
As with anything, moderation is key. Just because you can make alcohol fit into your macros doesn’t mean it should be a regular thing. It’s important to remember that alcohol calories (while enjoyable) are still empty calories, and your body and brain will benefit more from calories coming from carbs or fats in whole foods. This is especially important if you workout or are using any kind of training program. Our bodies need nutrients and fuel to provide energy for our workouts and help our muscles recover. When we continually use our carbs and fat macros to put toward alcohol calories, we are not consuming the important vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients that foods can provide. Again, anything in moderation is great but keep that in mind as you plan!
Another thing to keep in mind is that alcohol is known to make you hungry. It’s always a lot easier to reach for that bag of chips or want to go grab a midnight burger after a few drinks. If you know you are planning to have a few drinks, you can always plan to have some healthy, protein packed options available so you’re not reaching for anything and everything.
TIPS FOR DRINKING ALCHOL AND STAYING ON TRACK
1. Pre-plan and pre-log a midnight snack!
Pro-tip: go ahead and also pre-plan a fun snack for when you’re feeling snacky after your event or night out! That way YOU’RE taking control over the situation versus it taking control of you 😉 You could keep it simple and do a bag of 100 calorie popcorn or a protein bar. Or my personal favorite… go ahead and prep you a macro-friendly chicken quesadilla to pull out for a late night snack!
2. Fill your day with nutritious, wholesome, protein-packed food
Also, be sure to fuel up with nutritious, fiber-filled foods earlier throughout the day when you know you’ll be drinking later! This will help you feel fuller and also supply your body with vitamins and minerals that will help it feel better after a few drinks. I recommend always trying to hit your protein goal on days you know you’ll be consuming less carbs and fats as it will also help you feel fuller.
3. HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION!
As you probably already know, alcohol is super dehydrating. Water makes up over two-thirds of a healthy human body, so when we’re dehydrated, a lot of things are thrown off balance! Not to mention the fact that we are going to feel way worse the next day if we are going to bed dehydrated. Dehydration also adds to feelings of hunger-ness, which as discussed, is already enough of a challenge when drinking!
Definitely make sure you HYDRATE well before you start drinking and drink a glass of water with every drink you consume. This is where hydrating packets such as Liquid IV, Relyte, even Gatorade can really come in handy! Whenever i’m drinking I always drink a big glass of water with Liquid IV right before drinking and then again first thing the next morning. Adding Liquid IV (or another electrolyte option) is such an easy thing you can do that will help you feel sooo much better the day of and the day after drinking!
HOW TO TRACK ALCOHOL MACROS RESOURCES
Alcohol Macro Cheat Sheets – I always want to make things easier for you guys! So I’ve included some printable alcohol macro cheat sheets that lists some common drinks and their calories! I went ahead and calculated the carbs, fats, and carbs and fats for each. And remember, you can half each (or use whichever ratio you wish) if you want to track as a combo!
Quick Add Calorie Alcohol Macro Calculator – already know the calories of your drink? Or at least a good guesstimate? Use this macro calculator to enter the calories and find out how many macros to track!
When entering carbs, fats, or a combo in MyFitnessPal, just search “carbs g” or “fat g”. Then you can insert the amount you want to allot for each macronutrient.
MY FAVORITE MACRO-FRIENDLY COCKTAIL
We all have our drink of choice but some options are definitely lower calories than others!
Typically when getting a drink out, a skinny margarita is almost always my go too. Basic, I know! But they’re refreshing, give me a good buzz and you can’t beat the calories compared to most cocktails. At most places a skinny margarita is just lime juice and tequila with some agave or simple syrup. But maybe you’re a more of a low key kind of bar. If you’re somewhere where you think they’ll use margarita mix, i’d recommend getting a light beer or hard cider instead. Because no one wants the hangover or heart burn that come from that sugars in that margarita mix!
For a go-to, easy, low calorie, low sugar liquor option? I always recommend a shot of vodka or tequila with soda water and lots of lime! You could also do a splash of cranberry instead of lime if you’re wanting something with a little more depth. And if you still need more flavor, pack a few flavor packets and add as much flavor as you wish!
If you’re making drinks at-home, I highly recommend my Skinny Poolside Margarita recipe! It’s light, refreshing and only 150 calories! This drink is super yummy and refreshing in the summertime.
ULTIMATELY, IT’S UP TO YOU FRIEND!
I hope this was helpful! As I mentioned, how to track alcohol is completely up to you and your goals! Just find out the calories (or guesstimate) and decide how you want to track: as carbs, fats, or a combination of both! I love finding ways to still enjoy life while sticking to my goals. However, I’m also an advocate for living life and enjoying one-time celebrations as they come. I promise a night off of tracking will not ruin progress! So it’s truly up to you! And whatever you’re doing, enjoy 🙂